1 Thessalonians Chapter 3

1Th 3:1 KJV  Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;

1Th 3:2 KJV  And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:

1Th 3:1 Weymouth  So when we could endure it no longer, we decided to remain behind in Athens alone;

1Th 3:2 Weymouth  and sent Timothy our brother and God’s minister in the service of Christ’s Good News, that he might help you spiritually and encourage you in your faith;

1Th 3:1 TPT  When we could bear it no longer, we decided that we would remain in Athens

1Th 3:2 TPT  and send Timothy in our place. He is our beloved brother and coworker with God in preaching the gospel. We knew he would strengthen your faith and encourage your hearts

Clarke: Wherefore, when we could no longer, etc. – The apostle was anxious to hear of their state, and as he could obtain no information without sending a messenger express, he therefore sent Timothy from Athens; choosing rather to be left alone, than to continue any longer in uncertainty relative to their state.

Guzik: To establish and encourage you concerning your faith: Paul wanted Timothy to do two things – to establish and encourage the Thessalonians. Both are necessary, but establishing comes first. Encouragement can really only come after we are established in the right direction; otherwise, we are only encouraged in the wrong course.

  1. “When Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica it was not nearly so much to inspect the Church there as it was to help it.” (Barclay)

CTR: To comfort you — Signifies and implies establishment in the faith once delivered to the saints. All the terms and conditions of our covenant should be held in mind, and the promises of reward at the end of the journey. 

“Comfort all that mourn,” (Isa_61:2) “Through patience and comfort of the scriptures.” (Rom_15:4) “Wherefore comfort one another with these words,” (1Th_4:18) not only with respect to the things promised, but with respect to the loving compassion and sympathy of him who promises them.

Faith — Faith, like steam in an engine, is a power either for good or for evil. Hence, the importance of a correct faith, grounded and settled, and not moved away from the hope of the Gospel, rooted and built up in Christ.

1Th 3:3 KJV  That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

1Th 3:3 TPT  so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions, for you know that we are destined for this.

1Th 3:3 Weymouth  that none of you might be unnerved by your present trials: for you yourselves know that they are our appointed lot.

Guzik: That no one should be shaken by these afflictions: As the Thessalonians were established and encouraged, they would not be shaken by these afflictions. Timothy’s ministry would help them to endure their present hardship.

i. The ancient Greek word translated shaken was came from the idea of a dog wagging its tail. “Flattered, as a dog flattereth, by moving his tail; the devil, by flattering you, with promise of more ease by a contrary course, will but do as a dirty dog, defile you with fawning.” (Trapp)

ii. Without a good understanding of the truth concerning the place of suffering in the life of the believer, we are in great danger of being shaken in our faith.

d. These afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this: Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know that their time of present suffering was in God’s control. These were afflictions they were appointed to. As part of the normal Christian life, believers have an appointment with affliction.

i. Some believe that Christians shouldn’t suffer affliction and that God wants to teach us only by His word, and not through trial or tribulation. It is true that there is a great deal of suffering we could be spared by simply obeying God’s Word, and God wants to spare us that suffering. Nevertheless, suffering was good enough to teach Jesus (Heb_2:10; Heb_5:8), therefore it is good enough to teach us. God does teach the believer perseverance, obedience, how to comfort others, and deeper fellowship with Jesus in trials.

ii. Some believe that the only kind of affliction a Christian should experience is persecution. The truth is that there are two ancient Greek words used to translate the concept of suffering, and neither of them is used exclusively in regard to persecution. Thilipsis was used for such things as physical pain, emotional hardships, and suffering under temptation. Pasko was used for such things as physical sufferings unrelated to persecution, suffering under temptation, and hardships in a general sense.

iii. Some believe that affliction means God is angry at the believer. The truth is that affliction means that God loves us enough to give the best when we may only desire what is easy. The symbol of Christianity is the cross, not a feather bed. Affliction is just part of following Jesus; therefore Paul recognized that Christians are appointed to affliction.

iv. “Surveying the whole Christian movement, he saw suffering everywhere as the result of loyalty to the faith; and he did not conceive of it merely as something to be endured. He saw God ruling over all, and knew that this pathway of pain was a Divinely-arranged one.” (Morgan)

CTR: Appointed thereunto — The prophets foresaw and foretold “the sufferings of Christ (Head and Body) and the glory that should follow.” (1Pe_1:11)

JFB: moved — “shaken,” “disturbed.” The Greek is literally said of dogs wagging the tail in fawning on one. Therefore Tittmann explains it, “That no man should, amidst his calamities, be allured by the flattering hope of a more pleasant life to abandon his duty.” So Elsner and Bengel, “cajoled out of his faith.” In afflictions, relatives and opponents combine with the ease-loving heart itself in flatteries, which it needs strong faith to overcome.

yourselves know — We always candidly told you so (1Th_3:4; Act_14:22). None but a religion from God would have held out such a trying prospect to those who should embrace it, and yet succeed in winning converts.

we — Christians.

appointed thereunto — by God’s counsel (1Th_5:9).

PNT: For yourselves know. Expected tribulations can be no trial to faith, however they may try our sincerity and integrity. From the first God declares to His people that they may count upon trial; and therefore when trial comes they cannot be inclined to suppose that God is forgetful of them. ‘Seeing that afflictions are appointed to us, and we appointed to them; seeing there is a decree of God concerning them, a decree as to the matter of them, as to the manner of them, as to the measure of them, as to the time of them, when they shall commence, how far they shall advance, how long they shall continue; seeing everything in affliction is under an appointment, how meek and humble, how patient and submissive, ought the Christian’s spirit to be under them, and with what steadiness of expectation may and ought he to look up to heaven for a sanctified use and improvement of them!’ (Burkitt).

1Th 3:4 KJV  For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.

1Th 3:4 TPT  In fact, when we were with you we forewarned you: “Suffering and persecution is coming.” And so it has happened, as you well know.

1Th 3:4 Weymouth  For even when we were with you, we forewarned you, saying, “We are soon to suffer affliction;” and this actually happened, as you well know.

JFB: that we should suffer — Greek, “that we are about (we are sure) to suffer” according to the appointment of God (1Th_3:3).

even as — “even (exactly) as it both came to pass and ye know”; ye know both that it came to pass, and that we foretold it (compare Joh_13:19). The correspondence of the event to the prediction powerfully confirms faith: “Forewarned, forearmed” [Edmunds]. The repetition of “ye know,” so frequently, is designed as an argument, that being forewarned of coming affliction, they should be less readily “moved” by it.

Guzik:  (1Th_3:4) Affliction should never surprise the Christian.

We told you before when we were with you: When Paul was with the Thessalonians (just a few months before writing this letter) he warned them they would suffer tribulation. Though he was only with them a few weeks, he taught them about the place of suffering in the Christian life.

We would suffer tribulation: In Jesus’ parable of the soils (Mat_13:1-23), He described the way that some fall away when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word. Jesus said when tribulation arises, and not if tribulation comes. The Christian’s faith will be tested. Paul knew this, and as a good pastor, he warned the Thessalonians.

Clarke: That we should suffer tribulation – I prepared you for it, because I knew that it was according to their nature for wicked men to persecute the followers of God.

1Th 3:5 KJV  For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.

1Th 3:5 TPT  For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I sent our brother to find out if your faith was still strong, for I was concerned that the tempter had somehow enticed you and our labor would have been in vain.

1Th 3:5 Weymouth  For this reason I also, when I could no longer endure the uncertainty, sent to know the condition of your faith, lest perchance the Tempter might have tempted you and our labour have been lost.

Guzik: 4. (1Th_3:5) Paul’s urgency in sending Timothy to the Thessalonians.

When I could no longer endure it: Paul could barely endure the thought that the faith of the Thessalonians might crumble under this season of affliction, so he sent Timothy to both check on them and to help them.

i. “Paul’s subdued missionary activities at Corinth before the return of Silas and Timothy (Act_18:5) seems to indicate that Paul was deeply depressed because of the heavy burden of suspense and uncertainty concerning the outcome of his mission at Thessalonica.” (Hiebert)

b. Lest by some means the tempter had tempted you: Paul recognized that the tempter – that is, Satan – wanted to exploit this season of suffering. As in the case of Job, Satan wanted to tempt the Thessalonians to give up on God.

c. And our labor might be in vain: If the Thessalonians did waver in their faith, Paul would consider his work among them to have been in vain. In the parable of the soils (Mat_13:1-23) Jesus described the seed that withered under the heat of trials. If the Thessalonians withered, Paul’s hard work as a farmer among them would have born no harvest.

i. Paul did something to help prevent the Thessalonians from falling under their affliction. He sent Timothy to them, because those who are in affliction need the help of other godly people.

JFB: For this cause — Because I know of your “tribulation” having actually begun (1Th_3:4).

when I — Greek, “when I also (as well as Timothy, who, Paul delicately implies, was equally anxious respecting them, compare “we,” 1Th_3:1), could no longer contain myself (endure the suspense).”

I sent — Paul was the actual sender; hence the “I” here: Paul, Silas, and Timothy himself had agreed on the mission already, before Paul went to Athens: hence the “we,” (see on 1Th_3:1).

to know — to learn the state of your faith, whether it stood the trial (Col_4:8).

lest … have tempted … and … be — The indicative is used in the former sentence, the subjunctive in the latter. Translate therefore, “To know … whether haply the tempter have tempted you (the indicative implying that he supposed such was the case), and lest (in that case) our labor may prove to be in vain” (compare Gal_4:11). Our labor in preaching would in that case be vain, so far as ye are concerned, but not as concerns us in so far as we have sincerely labored (Isa_49:4; 1Co_3:8).

1Th 3:6 KJV  But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:

1Th 3:6 TPT  But now, Timothy has just returned to us and brought us the terrific news of your faith and love. He informed us that you still hold us dear in your hearts and that you long to see us as much as we long to see you.

1Th 3:6 Weymouth  But now that Timothy has recently come back to us from you, and has brought us the happy tidings of your faith and love, and has told us how you still cherish a constant and affectionate recollection of us, and are longing to see us as we also long to see you–

Clarke: When Timotheus came – We have already seen that he and Silas stayed behind at Thessalonica, when Paul was obliged to leave it; for the persecution seems to have been principally directed against him. When Paul came to Athens, he sent pressingly to him and Silas to come to him with all speed to that city. We are not informed that they did come, but it is most likely that they did, and that Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to comfort and build up these new converts. After Paul had sent away Timothy, it is likely he went himself straight to Corinth, and there Timothy soon after met him, with the good news of the steadiness of the Thessalonian Church.

Your faith and charity – The good tidings which Timothy brought from Thessalonica consisted of three particulars:

1. Their faith; they continued steadfast in their belief of the Gospel.

2. Their charity; they loved one another, and lived in unity and harmony.

3. They were affectionately attached to the apostle; they had good remembrance of him, and desired earnestly to see him.

JFB: Join “now” with “come”; “But Timotheus having just now come from you unto us” [Alford]. Thus it appears (compare Act_18:5) Paul is writing from Corinth.

your faith and charity — (1Th_1:3; compare 2Th_1:3, whence it seems their faith subsequently increased still more). Faith was the solid foundation: charity the cement which held together the superstructure of their practice on that foundation. In that charity was included their “good (kindly) remembrance” of their teachers.

desiring greatly — Greek, “having a yearning desire for.”

we also — The desires of loving friends for one another’s presence are reciprocal.

Guzik: Timothy’s encouraging report.

1. (1Th_3:6) The good news from Timothy.

Brought us good news of your faith and love: When Timothy returned from his visit to the Thessalonians, he brought good news. The Thessalonians were doing well in faith and love, and Paul helped them to do even better with this letter he wrote.

Morris on good news: “The verb he employs is the one which is usually translated ‘preach the gospel.’ Indeed, this is the only place in the whole of Paul’s writings where it is used in any other sense than that.”

iii. “All pastors are reminded by this of the kind of relationship which ought to exist between them and the church. When things go well with the Church, they are to count themselves happy, even though in other respects they are surrounded by much distress. On the other hand, however, if they see the building which they have constructed falling down, they are to die of grief and sorrow, even though in other respects there is good success and prosperity.” (Calvin)

b. That you always have good remembrance of us: Timothy also brought the good news that the Thessalonians had not believed the vicious and false rumors about Paul.

1Th 3:7 KJV  Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:

1Th 3:7 TPT  So, our dear brothers and sisters, in the midst of all our distress and difficulties, your steadfastness of faith has greatly encouraged our hearts.

1Th 3:7 Weymouth  for this reason in our distress and trouble we have been comforted about you, brethren, by your faith.

1Th 3:8 KJV  For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.

1Th 3:8 TPT  We feel alive again as long as we know that you are standing firm in the Lord.

1Th 3:8 Weymouth  For now life is for us life indeed, since you are standing fast in the Lord.

Guzik: 2. (1Th_3:7-9) The effect of the good news on Paul.

In all our affliction and distress we were comforted: Paul wrote this letter from Corinth, and his coming to that city was marked by difficulty. He said of his coming to Corinth, I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling (1Co_2:3). Yet since Timothy came back with good news, Paul had a renewed strength and freshness of life (for now we live). It made Paul feel much better that the Thessalonians were doing well.

PNT: We were comforted. The tidings which Paul received of the stedfastness of his Thessalonians under trial, enabled him to endure his own troubles with greater equanimity. Their continued faith showed him that his former labours and trials had not been in vain, their affection and sympathy cheered him, and their uncomplaining endurance was a fresh stimulus to his own patience.

For now.Now refers to the change of feeling occasioned by the arrival of Timothy’ (Jowett). It is equivalent to in these circumstances, in this condition of things, that is to say, if ye stand fast in the Lord, we live.

We live, i.e. we have the full strength and enjoyment of life: this is enough for us; we no longer feel cramped and depressed by our own troubles.

Guzik: For what thanks can we render to God for you: Paul’s thanks and joy overflowed because he knew that they did stand fast in the Lord. Some find it easy to rejoice in the material prosperity in the life of others, but Paul honestly rejoiced in the spiritual prosperity of others.

1Th 3:9 KJV  For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;

1Th 3:9 TPT  How could we ever thank God enough for all the wonderful joy that we feel before our God because of you?

1Th 3:9 Weymouth  For what thanksgiving on your behalf can we possibly offer to God in return for all the joy which fills our souls before our God for you,

Clarke: What thanks can we render to God – The high satisfaction and uncommon joy which the apostle felt are strongly depicted in the language he uses. How near his heart did the success of his ministry lie! It was not enough for him that he preached so often, labored so hard, suffered so much; what were all these if souls were not converted? And what were all conversions, if those who embraced the Gospel did not walk steadily in the way to heaven, and persevere?

JFB: before our God — It is a joy which will bear God’s searching eye: a joy as in the presence of God, not self-seeking, but disinterested, sincere, and spiritual (compare 1Th_2:20; Joh_15:11).

Guzik: For what thanks can we render to God for you: Paul’s thanks and joy overflowed because he knew that they did stand fast in the Lord. Some find it easy to rejoice in the material prosperity in the life of others, but Paul honestly rejoiced in the spiritual prosperity of others.

Do we feel this strongly about our brethren?

1Th 3:10 KJV  Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

1Th 3:10 TPT  Every night and day we sincerely and fervently pray that we may see you face-to-face and furnish you with whatever may be lacking in your faith.

1Th 3:10 Weymouth  while night and day, with intense earnestness, we pray that we may see your faces, and may bring to perfection whatever may be still lacking in your faith?

Guzik: Night and day praying exceedingly: Paul heard good news from Timothy, but it wasn’t enough. He wanted to see the face of the church family in Thessalonica. Paul wanted it enough to pray night and day . . . exceedingly that God would make a way for him to see them.

i. Exceedingly: “There are various ways of expressing the thought of abundance, and this double compound is probably the most emphatic of all.” (Morris)

b. And perfect what is lacking in your faith: In the midst of all this joy, Paul called attention to the fact that they were still lacking. Though the apostle repeatedly complimented them (1Th_1:3; 1Th_1:7; 1Th_2:13; 1Th_2:19-20; 1Th_3:6), he was also concerned to perfect (complete) what is lacking in their faith.

i. Paul believed that his personal presence would be a help to the Thessalonians. “Though his Epistles might avail towards it, yet his personal presence would do more. There is a peculiar blessing attends oral preaching, more than reading.” (Poole)

JFB: Night and day — (See on 1Th_2:9). Night is the season for the saint’s holiest meditations and prayers (2Ti_1:3).

praying — connected with, “we joy”; we joy while we pray; or else as Alford, What thanks can we render to God while we pray? The Greek implies a beseeching request.

exceedingly — literally, “more than exceeding abundantly” (compare Eph_3:20).

that which is lacking — Even the Thessalonians had points in which they needed improvement [Bengel], (Luk_17:5). Their doctrinal views as to the nearness of Christ’s coming, and as to the state of those who had fallen asleep, and their practice in some points, needed correction (1Th_4:1-9). Paul’s method was to begin by commending what was praiseworthy, and then to correct what was amiss; a good pattern to all admonishers of others.

1Th 3:11 KJV  Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.

1Th 3:11 TPT  Now may our Father God and our precious Lord Jesus guide our steps on a path straight back to you.

1Th 3:11 Weymouth  But may our God and Father Himself–and our Lord Jesus–guide us on our way to you;

Clarke: Now God himself and our Father – That is: God who is our Father, who has adopted us into the heavenly family, and called us his sons and daughters.

Direct our way – As he was employed in God’s work he dared not consult his own inclinations, he looked for continual directions from God, where, when, and how to do his Master’s work.

PNT: Direct our way unto you. Three or four years elapsed before this prayer was answered.

Guzik: Paul’s prayer for what is lacking in the Thessalonians.

Now may our God and Father Himself: This shows Paul begins a passage of written prayer. He told the Thessalonians what he prayed for them.

i. Hiebert points out that this is technically not a prayer. “Recognition should be given to the fact that in actual statement these verses do form a prayer addressed directly to God. They are rather a devout prayer-wish . . . the solemn tone of this fervent prayer-wish approaches the language of prayer and is virtually a prayer.”

b. Direct our way to you: Paul was encouraged at the current state of the Thessalonians and by the fruit that Timothy’s ministry had there. Yet he still prayed that God would direct his way to the Thessalonians. This shows that though Paul valued the ministry others brought to them, he believed that they still needed the authoritative instruction and encouragement only the apostles could give.

i. This being true, we also need to be under apostolic influence. Paul and the rest have graduated to glory, but their writings remain. God has preserved the apostles’ teaching for us in the New Testament.

ii. The church is founded upon the apostles, with Christ Himself the chief cornerstone (Eph_2:20). The foundation of the New Jerusalem is the twelve apostles (Rev_21:14). There was something significantly unique about the first-century apostles and prophets, and that unique ministry is preserved in the New Testament.

1Th 3:12 KJV  And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:

1Th 3:13 KJV  To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

1Th 3:12 TPT  And may the Lord increase your love until it overflows toward one another and for all people, just as our love overflows toward you.

1Th 3:13 TPT  Then your hearts will be strengthened in holiness so that you may be flawless and pure before the face of our God and Father at the appearing of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen!

1Th 3:12 Weymouth  and as for you, may the Lord teach you to love one another and all men, with a growing and a glowing love, resembling our love for you.

1Th 3:13 Weymouth  Thus He will build up your characters, so that you will be faultlessly holy in the presence of our God and Father at the Coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.

The Lord make you — It is not what we can do, but what the Lord can do in us and for us. It is the Lord’s doing; we can accomplish very little for ourselves. He has various agencies through which he is pleased to increase our love–the word of God, divine providence, fellowship of the saints.

Increase — Signifies love already has attained an ascendency in the heart, and is progressing, conquering and bringing into subjection all the thoughts and conduct of life. Approaching more and more and attaining and maintaining the “mark” which God hath set before us as the standard of character for which he will be pleased to award the prize.

And abound — The Lord’s people are to increase in love continually, until the love abounds or overflows in all the thoughts and words and conduct of life. One reason why love does not abound more thoroughly amongst God’s people, is that so many of them have been blinded by the Adversary to the real character of God.

In love — We began to receive of God’s spirit of love from the time we made our consecration to him, and began to live unto him, and not unto the flesh.

One toward another — The Apostles exhort fellow Christians to follow after them in the same way of self-sacrificing, loving obedience, as imitators of Jesus.

Toward all men — This presupposes the love which, first of all, is due to God our Father. Nor is it to be expected that any man will love his fellow-creatures to the extent indicated, unless he has first learned to love his Creator.

Even as we do — They were exemplifying in their daily course of life this very abounding love which, overflowing, was leading them to sacrifice their own interests and rights and privileges for the sake of the Lord’s people everywhere.

To the end — With the object in view.

He may stablish — Fixed, settled, rooted, grounded, thoroughly established, firmly fixed in love for righteousness; so that all unrighteousness would be an abomination to them.

Your hearts — To have a heart that is blameless is a very different thing from having flesh that is blameless. The heart, standing for the will, the intention, the desire; represents the new creature.
The coming — Greek: parousia; presence.

From this the Thessalonian brethren seem to have drawn a wrong conclusion, supposing the Apostle to intimate that the Day of the Lord would surely come in their day. To meet their difficulty, Paul wrote them the second epistle, in which the main thought is the correcting of this error.

We are now in this time of Christ’s presence, and it behooves us to inquire carefully of our hearts to what extent we are established in righteousness, in love for it.

Do we find that with the brighter shining truth our hearts are being established, our faith well founded and settled? If so, it is just what Paul expected.

Guzik: 2. (1Th_3:12) To make up what is lacking, they must increase and abound in love.

And may the Lord make you increase and about in love: This was not a loveless church, but they still had room to grown in love, because love is an essential mark of the Christian faith.

i. Jesus spoke of the essential place love has as an identifying mark of the Christian: By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (Joh_13:35). The Apostle John also emphasized this principle: If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (1Jn_4:20)

b. Abound in love to one another and to all: Paul looked for them to show love to one another and to all. This love begins in the family of God, but it must go beyond. Jesus told us that our love is small and shallow if we only love those who love us also (Mat_5:46-47).

c. Just as we do to you: Paul daringly set himself as a standard of love to be emulated. We should live such Christian lives that we could tell young Christians, “Love other people just the way that I do.”

3. (1Th_3:13) To make up what is lacking, they needed hearts established in holiness.

So that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness: Paul knew that God wanted the Thessalonians to have their hearts established blameless in holiness. The idea behind holiness is to be set apart from the world and unto God. The genuinely holy person is separated away from the domination of sin and self and the world, and they are separated to God.

b. Your hearts blameless in holiness: The heart must be made holy first. The devil wants us to develop a holy exterior while neglecting the interior, like whitewashed tombs, full of death (Mat_23:27).

c. Blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Paul was reminded of Jesus’ return, because nothing can encourage us to holiness like remembering that Jesus might come today.

i. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians emphasized three things that are important for every Christian today:

• First, he wanted to be with them, so they could benefit from his apostolic wisdom and authority.

• He wanted them to abound in love.

• He wanted them to be established in true heart-holiness.

ii. All His saints: “It is best to understand the ‘holy ones’ as all those bright beings who will make up His train be they angels or the saints who have gone before.” (Morris)

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